ELKVILLE, Ill. – When the West Virginia Miners lost game one of a doubleheader Sunday at Champion City, the Kokomo Jackrabbits secured a spot in the 2018 East Division Championship Series of the Prospect League Playoffs. With the Miners’ loss in game two and a Chillicothe Paints 7-4 win over Butler Sunday, the Paints locked down the East’s other playoff spot.
Kokomo (33-21), in its fourth season in the Prospect League, will make a playoff appearance for the second time. The Jackrabbits last appeared in 2016. They were eliminated by the West Virginia Miners two games to none.
Kokomo has been impressive lately, they’ve won nine out of 10 and 12 of the last 15 heading into Tuesday night. The Jackrabbits rank second in the Prospect League in team batting average at .276. They’re second with 100 doubles and a .379 on base percentage this season. On the mound, Kokomo has thrown the most shutouts (7), ranks second in hits allowed (402), third in team ERA (4.00), runs allowed (236), earned runs (202) and walks (210), they’re fifth in strikeouts (463).
Individually, Ian Walters ranks seventh in the league with 63 hits. Colin Butkiewicz is fourth with 15 doubles. Chandler Coates leads all Prospect League qualifying pitchers with an ERA of 1.78. His 8 wins and 10 starts lead the league as well. Closer Braden Niksich is tied for third with five saves.
Chillicothe, a founding member of the Prospect League, makes the playoffs for the seventh time in 10 seasons after a two-year hiatus from postseason play. The Paints win their only Prospect League Championship in 2010. They have made it to the championship round three times. Most recently, the Paints were eliminated two games to one by the West Virginia Miners in 2015.
Chillicothe has been present at or near the top of the East Division Standings nearly all season, partly the result of a pitching staff and defense that has ranked at the top of the league in ERA and fielding percentage nearly all season. Heading into Tuesday, the Paints own the best ERA in the league (3.37) and the top fielding percentage (.973, 55 errors in 55 games)
The offense, which struggled early on has found its way in July, hitting .283 in 27 games this month. The team average for the entire season is up to .261, which ranks fifth in the Prospect League entering Tuesday’s games. The Paints lead the league in doubles (114), are tied for third in home runs (28), rank third in hits (482), fourth in walks (266) and fifth in RBIs (273).
Individually on offense, the Paints have been led by Andrew Czech and Chad Roberts all season. Czech’s 54 games played ties him for the most of any player in the league, he leads the league with 50 RBIs and 20 doubles, is tied for second in hits (68), ranks fourth in at bats (204), sixth in walks (34), seventh in runs scored (39), tied for seventh in home runs (7), eighth in the league with a .333 batting average. Roberts sits just outside the top ten with a .313 batting average and ranks first in at bats (214), tied for third in runs scored (44), is fourth in hits (67), fourth with 53 games played, sixth in home runs with 8, seventh in RBIs (39), tied for eighth with 12 doubles, and tenth in walks (28). Outfielder/catcher Dillon Dingler doesn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify, but he is hitting .366 in 32 games with a home run, 27 RBIs and 12 doubles, which ties him with teammate Roberts for eighth in the league for two-baggers.
On the mound, left-hander Chris Modrzynski’s 2.49 ERA ranks second among qualifying pitchers in the Prospect League. Michael Jacob has struck out 55 batters, which ranks fourth in the league. Zach Harvey has five wins, tied for third-most. Jack Raines, typically the Paints closer, has an ERA of 1.11 in 17 appearances and has the second-most saves in the league with nine. Ben Bulchik has an ERA of 1.46 in 18 appearances and ranks third (tied) with five saves.
The Jackrabbits hold a 2 1/2 game lead over the Paints for the regular-season division title and the top seed in the East Division Championship Series. Game one will be Sunday, August 5, at the two seed. Game two and, if necessary, game three will be hosted by the regular-season division winner August 6 and 7.
Courtesy of the Prospect League